Edge of Pathos, Final Book in The Conjurors Series, Now Available

Edge-of-Pathos-300x200After hundreds of hours of writing, hundreds more of editing and marketing, and almost 400,000 words, The Conjurors Series is complete. I self published the final novel in the series today, Edge of Pathos. You can buy a copy here, if you’re interested, or you can email me through my contact page and I’ll send you a free review copy in any format you request.

I can’t swear that I’ll never return to the world and characters that I built in this series, but for now, I’m looking ahead to a new project and a chance to create something from scratch that incorporates all of the things I’ve learned writing The Conjurors Series.

You can check out the blurb for Edge of Pathos below. For those of you who follow my blog and writing, thank you for your support. Every positive email I’ve received has made me happier than I can express, and every negative review has made me a better writer. I’m grateful to you all.

Edge of Pathos

Never pause, never doubt, never yield. Rise and fight.

Valerie thought she understood loss. Her entire life has been defined by it. But now, she is facing the most frightening loss of all. Her own mind is slipping away, consumed by the power that burns through her every time she saves a life.

As the Fractus sweep across Earth, using the strength of their magic to subjugate the powerless, Valerie struggles to lead the resistance, constantly one step behind her enemy. When Reaper taps into a powerful new source of magic, Valerie knows that solutions that worked in the past won’t be enough to defeat him. She’ll have to reimagine how magic can be harnessed in order to combat a force dark enough to dark enough to enslave all of humankind.

In the final novel of The Conjurors Series, Valerie must bury her pain and uncertainty deep inside of her and make the hardest decisions of her life with no one to guide her. The fate of two worlds depends on it.

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How to Weave Believable Technology into Your YA Dystopian Novel (Part 2)

file000898499863As I mentioned in my last post, Part 1 on this topic, it is with glee that I leave behind the world I’ve been writing about for years to enter a new one. It’s radically different than the one I left behind, not even set in the same time. I’m visiting the future, and am learning about the technology I’ll find there. For the first time, my day job is kinda helpful, as I work in Silicon Valley at a high tech company, where we geek out about what the future will look like all the time.

I’m a believer that the best place to generate ideas for plausible ideas of future technology is to check out cutting-edge technology from today and extrapolate. Below are some resources that might trigger ideas for you.

Technology Websites
No surprise, there are a lot of online resources to sift through if you’re interested in technology. They range from those too mundane to yield exciting inspiration to those so futuristic that they don’t feel plausible. The sites I regularly check out are TechCrunch, which covers the latest technology news, and Fast Company, which doesn’t exclusively focus on technology, but rather innovation. If you’re interested in learning about how electronics function in a little more depth, check out the text and videos on SemisMatter to become more knowledgeable.

Technology-Focused TED Talks
If you haven’t heard of TED talks, they are awesome. Some of the most brilliant people alive share their expertise on everything from writing to technology to business. These brilliant people deliver short (18 minutes or less) talks on all kinds of topics, like robotics, biotechnology and space travel. And you can watch the videos of these talks for free on their website. They have a great search feature, including a way to filter by topic. Check out their most viewed talks and their technology topic talks. You’ll be educated without realizing it, and I defy you not to be inspired by some of the technology that you’re introduced to.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
CES is perhaps the most famous technology trade show, where the coolest up-and-coming technology is on display. Unfortunately, this is an industry event that isn’t open to the public, but there is a lot of media coverage of the event. If you do a search for the 2015 show, you’ll hear about the hottest technology that was present. I got distracted by a 3D printer that prints dessert, but that’s another story. Search for new coverage of CES for the past three years or so and you’ll start to notice trends that you can weave into your story.

Reference for the truly geeky.
For those interested in a dense but thought-provoking read about the extremes of what our future might look like, my favorite book, which I encountered in my day job, is The Singularity Is Near, by Ray Kurzweil. It blew my mind and made me grateful to be living in an age of exponential growth of technology. Maybe I’ll have a chip in my brain before I die (by choice!) or tiny robots will be released inside me to cure me of diseases. I sure hope so.

If you’re interested in how some famous ya dystopian authors have handled technology in their novels, check out my last post on the subject.

In Quest of an Honest Review

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When I began my self-publishing journey a few years ago and sent my novel into the world, I’ll confess to being shocked when anyone didn’t like it. My first 3-star review led me to eat five peppermint patties in a row. That’ll show ’em. But 3 years and 40 reviews later, I have a very different take on reviews. I’m happy to see them, no matter what the star rating is. The people who don’t like my writing teach me at least as much as the people who do.

Think my dialogue is trite? Allow me to rewrite it. The opening of my book didn’t hook you? Let me add a scene. My book reads like it was written for a younger target audience? Maybe it’s time to market it to middle grade instead of young adult.

Now that I’m almost done with the last book in my series, I know that I’ll take all the lessons that my readers taught me and apply them to my new series from the get-go. And my attitude toward reviews has completely changed. When it comes to reviews, no matter how critical, I say bring it on.

I have gone from wanting people to like my book to wanting to know the truth about my writing. No matter what people think, I’ll probably always write, but I don’t want to be deluded about it. When readers give me the truth, I relish it, even when it’s criticism.

For that reason, I decided to have the first book in The Conjurors Series reviewed by Glenn Hates Books – Brutally Honest Book Reviews. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants an honest assessment of their book. He won’t pull punches, but he’s not out to eviscerate everyone, either. If you’re ready for the truth, give it a try.

If you have any other recommendations on places to get legitimate reviews of books, let me know. I’ve tried Story Cartel with some success, and reaching out through social networks. Have you had any luck with other sources?

Lessons from a Failed KDP Select Free Promo

shutterstock_120732190In the new year, I used three of my KDP free days to promote the first book in The Conjurors Series, The Society of Imaginary Friends. I was determined to put everything I had into the campaign in order to maximize downloads of my free book and hopefully convince readers to continue with my series. I’ve been exclusively selling my books through Amazon since I began self-publishing, and have been toying with the idea of making my books available with other retailers (and thereby enabling the first book in the series to be perma free). This promotion was my final push to see if I could get a serious number of downloads of my free book using Amazon alone.

I’ve never spent more time (or money) promoting my free days, than this round. I submitted my book’s info to more than 70 sites that list free ebooks, and paid for placement on Book Goodies, Book Goodies Kids, The Fussy Librarian, Genre Pulse, Free Books Daily, FK Books and Tips, and through Fiverr with bknights. None of these ads were expensive (almost all were under $10), but it’s still more than I’ve ever spent promoting my book.

So what was the result? A lot less downloads than I had when I ran my last free promo in the summer (when I submitted my information to about 30 sites that list free books, and that was it). Same cover, same blurb, more positive reviews than ever. Below are my stats from my last two KDP select free promos.

March, 2014 Free Promo (minimal effort):
3,041 Downloads
Highest Rank Achieved on Amazon’s Free List: 96

January, 2015 Free Promo (major effort):
1,924 Downloads
Highest Rank Achieved on Amazon’s Free List: 220

I don’t think it’s worthwhile to make guesses about why my promo was so weak this time around (or lament how hard it is to give a book you’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on away for free). Instead, I’ve assembled a list of do’s and don’ts for your next KDP select free promo based on all of the free promos I’ve run since I began in 2011, in hopes that your next promo goes better than mine.

DO be flexible about what days your book is free if it means being listed on a major site like Bookbub or Pixel of Ink.
I wasn’t lucky enough to snag a spot on either site, but authors who have report thousands and thousands of downloads, which pays for their free promos many times over. But they have a limited number of slots, so be willing to work your schedule around theirs. The impact will be worth it.

DO track where your book was actually posted, to the best of your ability, and see if you notice any trends/spikes based on when different sources posted your book.
Whether you run your next free promo through KDP select or make your book perma-free, like I’m planning to do this year, you will have future promos of your free book. It’s worth it to track which sites gave you the most love, so you know where to focus your attention for future campaigns.

DO your due diligence on having a professional cover and blurb.
Spend the money to have a strong, professional cover created for your book, and make sure your blurb has been run by an editor, as well as a good number of readers you trust. For a relatively unknown writer, having a weak cover or book description will break your promo.

DON’T spend a lot of time submitting your information to the dozens of small sites that list free and discounted books.
Many sites will only result in a download or two, nowhere near what you need to rise up the rankings (where your visibility will begin to drive your numbers). Finding these sites and submitting your info is a surprisingly huge time sink, that would probably be better spent writing your next book. Note: For a paid promo of your book, it might be a different story. Sites that are willing to post your paid book and yield a couple of downloads can be hugely impactful for your numbers.

DON’T inundate your Twitter and Facebook feeds with your freebie announcements.
Experts suggest posting links once or twice a day, but don’t be sending notices every hour. Not only is it annoying to fans and friends who follow you, but it isn’t an effective strategy. For most authors, sales are not driven through these mediums. That’s not to say it isn’t worth getting the word out, but keep it simple.

I’d welcome any additional tips you have on how to run a great free promo of your book.

What’s Your Story’s Logline?

shutterstock_208876747In the writing world, there is a lot of talk about creating stories that are high concept, especially if you’re writing YA fantasy, like I am. Basically, if your story is high concept it has a compelling idea that can be summed up succinctly. (The Writer’s Store does a great job of explaining the concept here.) If you hear a high-concept idea, you know it because it stays with you. You find yourself already picturing the movie in your head.

The idea of creating a high concept novel reminded me of a term I learned about in my days writing screenplays. Every script had a logline, in which the author summed up the protagonist, conflict, and what made the story unique in one or two crisp sentences. Though novel-writing is a completely different medium, I think creating a logline for your story is the perfect place to start before you pen your first chapter. If you can’t identify what makes your story different and the emotional impact it will have on the reader at the highest level, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Once you’re deep into your book (or series), it’s tough to make big changes. It’s impossible to change the fundamental concept – you might as well start over. Writing a logline forces you to make sure that this is a path that you want to spend months or years of your life exploring. All the editing in the world can’t make a story more high concept, so it’s the one thing you have to get right from the start. You probably have many ideas in your head, and most of them are okay, or just good enough. It’s worth taking the time to write a logline to see if your idea pops, if it is THE ONE.

I wanted to see if my theory applied to some of the most successful young adult fantasy novels over the past few years. I went to IMDB to read the loglines for these books, which are all now turned into movies, to see if their core premise could be summed up in one or two compelling sentences, or if the plots were too nuanced to draw readers in without a little explanation.

Here are 10 examples of the loglines from YA fantasy movies that instantly convey a high concept.

Divergent
In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

Beautiful Creatures
Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
A teenager discovers he’s the descendant of a Greek god and sets out on an adventure to settle an on-going battle between the gods.

The Giver
In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

Warm Bodies
After a highly unusual zombie saves a still-living girl from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Twilight
A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire.

Eragon
In his homeland of Alagaesia, a farm boy happens upon a dragon’s egg — a discovery that leads him on a predestined journey where he realized he’s the one person who can defend his home against an evil king.

And though it wouldn’t make the top 10, below is the logline for the first book in my own series, The Conjurors.

The Society of Imaginary Friends
Valerie Diaz has magic that she can’t contain, and it’s killing her. In order to survive, she must embrace her power and travel many light years away to fight an enemy who has been trying to kill her since she was a child.

What’s your story’s logline?

How Important Is a Cover Reveal for Your Self-Published Novel?

Guardians-of-the-Boundary-300x200Later this month I will be publishing the third book in The Conjurors Series, Guardians of the Boundary. As part of my pre-launch activities, I considered doing a major cover reveal. I’ve seen self-published authors execute cover reveals with success, generating interest from their fan bases and even eliciting some pre-orders of their books.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and have only so much time to devote to writing and marketing your books, it’s important to consider where you want to invest your time. As a result, I decided not to do a big cover reveal for Guardians of the Boundary (other than this article).

Here are some questions you should ask yourself to determine whether it’s worth your time to have a cover reveal for your novel.

Do you have a large existing fan base?
If you do, then a cover reveal is a great way to keep your name and book top-of-mind for your readers. No matter how fast we write, there are bound to be gaps in time as we’re writing the next book, and a cover reveal can keep the buzz going around your name. But if you’re still developing your platform, like I am, there may not be many people who really care about your book, never mind your cover. It will take reviews, giveaways and word-of-mouth to generate interest in your book.

Are you writing a series that has garnered a following?
One of the reasons I seriously considered a cover reveal is because I’m writing a series, and I know my readers will be interested in hearing what’s coming next. It’s also a great way to reassure readers that your series hasn’t been dropped. In my case, however, my series and my personal brand as an author is still a fledgling, so I think I’ll put in the work required to execute a great cover reveal in after I’ve proven myself as an author who consistently puts out high-quality writing.

Do you have existing relationships with bloggers who sponsor cover reveals?
Many self-published authors have worked with bloggers to have their books reviewed or promoted. Some of those bloggers also publish cover reveals, as long as your cover art and blurb are high-quality. If you’ve been working with bloggers for other marketing activities, leveraging those contacts for a cover reveal may be a relatively quick way to generate interest in your book.

Are you willing to pay to have your cover reveal publicized?
There are some excellent companies that offer services to have your book reviewed or your cover reveal published on reputable blogging sites. If you are willing and able to pay a fee, your cover reveal doesn’t have to be a lot of work – someone else can line up the promotional activities for you. However, if your funds are limited, like mine, you might want to leverage this service after your book has been published, so readers can link to your book if it sounds interesting and check it out.

However, if you are interested in the next book in The Conjurors Series, below is the blurb for Guardians of the Boundary, which will be published on Amazon at the end of the month.

The battle is over. Now it’s war.

Valerie’s entire life has been spent fighting for survival. But now, the stakes have never been higher, and her enemies have never been more powerful.

The Fractus have proven that they won’t hesitate to kill those who stand in their way, including the people Valerie loves. And their path of destruction is growing—on Earth and the Globe. With Reaper always one step ahead, Valerie must find a way to change the game, or risk never catching up to an enemy with the conviction and power to upset the delicate balance that protects those without magic from being exploited.

As the Fractus grow in number and strength, can Valerie convince enough Conjurors to fight by her side against a menace that could upend the universe?

In the third novel of The Conjurors Series, Valerie has the life she’s always dreamed of—a family, a budding romance, and powerful magic that she is finally learning to harness. She also has an enemy determined to rip it all away from her.

 

On Using Story Cartel to Get Reviews for Your Self-Published Book

Story-Cartel-logo-300x284For self-published authors, establishing credibility with a substantial number of honest reviews is crucial in order to sell books. In an effort to get more reviews of the first book in The Conjurors Series, I tried a website called Story Cartel. For $30, you are allowed to list your book on the site, where readers can download your book for free. Readers who write reviews of the books they download are entered into contests for various prizes, like gift cards or a new Kindle. During my promotion and I received 8 reviews (four4-star, four 5-star).

Ultimately I’m happy that I decided to use Story Cartel. I kept my expectations reasonable. There are some folks who received 50 reviews using Story Cartel, but most of my research prepared me that I’d be lucky to get more than five. I now have seven more positive reviews of The Society of Imaginary Friends than I did before, which will hopefully make the next promotion of my book more powerful.

Pros:

  1. Story Cartel has a built-in network of readers who have probably never seen your book before, so you have the chance to get new, honest reviews. You are guaranteed to get at least one new review or you get a refund.
  2. After the promotion, Story Cartel gives you a list of the names and email addresses of everyone who downloaded your book. This provides you the ability to politely reach out after your promotion to see if they are interested in reading other work by you.
  3. It’s a great opportunity to get some honest feedback about your book. Especially if you’ve only had a friendly audience reviewing your story, even a few new reviews can help you understand if there are major changes that you need to make before you continue to promote your book.

Cons:

  1. It isn’t free, and you only get your money back if you get no reviews at all. Story Cartel charges $30 for their service, which is money they use for prizes that they give to readers who post reviews.
  2. It’s up to you to promote your giveaway on Story Cartel if you want more than a few reviews. I made a couple of posts on Twitter and Facebook, and that seemed to help get a few extra readers of my book.
  3. Some reviewers don’t post genuine reviews. I had one reviewer who writes generic reviews and posts them for a whole bunch of books in order to be entered into the Story Cartel prize drawing multiple times. She didn’t actually read my book and provide an honest review.

Has anyone else used Story Cartel? What was your experience like?